Ramona Graves

She is Director of the Laser/Rock Interaction and Co-Director of the Center For Earth Materials, Mechanics, and Characterization (CEMMC) Petroleum engineering, contrary to the common assumption, is not a narrowly focused engineering discipline. A petroleum engineer must have a good understanding of chemistry, physics, geology, economics, statics, thermodynamics, strength of materials, fluid behavior, rock behavior, the interaction between fluid and rock, and other fields. Graduate studies are therefore an excellent avenue by which to further investigate the relationships between any of these fields, or to gain a better understanding of the complexities of petroleum reservoirs. My primary research is in the area of reservoir characterization and laser/rock interaction. To best develop and exploit a petroleum reservoir, an engineer must understand the flow, capillary, and mechanical properties of a porous media. Our research wing contains the reservoir characterization lab, which is equipped with state-of-the-art rock measuring systems. Permeabilities (ability of a porous media to transmit fluid) can be measured on reservoir rocks that look and behave like concrete to those that look and behave like beach sand. The mechanical properties measured are used to predict reservoir compaction and surface subsidence, as well as how easily the rock will fracture. Most of these rock properties can be used to predict and remediate environmental problems and to predict groundwater movement. Because measurements can be made on any rock type, I am currently working with very low permeability rocks which might be used as underground storage for hazardous waste. Many students from other departments on this campus make use of this equipment, either as an independent project or working in conjunction with a petroleum engineering graduate student. There is broad application of this research outside of the petroleum industry. These areas of research are truly interdisciplinary. The student must apply statics and dynamics, rock and fluid properties, wave theory, and strength of materials to specific petroleum engineering problems. My goal for a student under my supervision is that the student learns to formulate a problem, find a path to the solution, integrate many disciplines to solve the problem, and finally, be able to communicate the problem and the solution to a variety of audiences. This specific type of research (theoretical or experimental, computer oriented or not, basic or applied) is secondary to the importance of a student gaining the ability to question, to answer, and to communicate.